After Ben Affleck won the Best Picture Oscar for “Argo” — and, apparently, the admiration and sympathy of the industry at large — at February’s Academy Awards ceremony, he could probably have persuaded Hollywood to greenlight just about anything he felt like making. Those on the lookout for a grand, overreaching folly in the actor’s fourth outing behind the camera, however, may be disappointed to hear he’ll be on familiar turf: like his 2007 debut “Gone Baby Gone,” “Live By Night” will be an adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel.
The news was confirmed today by Warner Bros’, which also backed “Argo” and “The Town” (another Boston-based thriller) with Affleck, though it was hardly out of the blue: rights to Lehane’s period crime saga were snapped up by the studio a year ago, before the book even hit shelves. And who better to bring it to life than their Beantown-based golden boy? “Live By Night” enters pre-production today, and could start rolling as early as August.
Affleck will produce with his Warner-based company Pearl Street, and will take a screenplay credit after skipping out on writing duties in “Argo.” At this stage, moreover, he’s the only actor confirmed to appear in the film: only in “Gone Baby Gone” has he managed to stay off-camera. He’ll presumably take the lead role of Joe Coughlin, the rebellious son of a police chief who enters a life of organized crime in Prohibition-era Boston.
Lehane’s book won the Edgar Award — the highest accolade in mystery writing — last week for Novel of the Year; among those it beat was publishing phenomenon “Gone Girl.” “Live By Night” is the second in a planned trilogy about Boston Irish lawmen, and shares characters with its 2008 predecessor “The Given Day.”
Interestingly, a film of “The Given Day” hasn’t yet come to pass: Warner Bros’ also bought the rights to that one, and it was optioned by Sam Raimi, but the project fell through. Still, Lehane’s work has otherwise been generously served by Hollywood recently. In addition to “Gone Baby Gone,” Lehane saw his novel “Mystic River” brought to life (to Oscar-winning effect) by Clint Eastwood. “Shutter Island,” meanwhile, was filmed somewhat divisively by Martin Scorsese; you don’t have to be an Oscar-winning A-lister to direct a Lehane adaptation, but clearly it helps.
What do you think? Is this the right move for Affleck following his Oscar triumph? Or does he need to stay out of Boston?